My children help me with the grocery shopping every week; I write the shopping list up according to the isles in our grocery store and give 4 or so isles to each child, and myself, and off we go.  We get the shopping done so fast – I love it!  But the real reason for getting them to be responsible for filling the trolley has been to teach them about the grocery store and the money we spend and to give them practice at making wise decisions.   Here are some of the lessons we’ve talked about:

  • Making choices – Each and every isle, each and every product offers you choices and the children had to learn to make a choice.  Even though I give fairly good directions as far as brand/size etc on the list sometimes they had to decide.  The basis of there decisions were initially based on their observations of what we used at home.  If mum used this brand than this is the brand I look for.  Then they moved into more responsibility and they were able to choose the best buy.
  • Being Price aware – Though many families teach math in the grocery store I must admit beyond counting potatoes and apples I have found the grocery store a place where I want in and out!  So I am really thankful that our local store now has comparative prices on their shelf tags.  The children can compare 100g of this with a 100g of that.  But…. I had to show them and this meant a on the spot math lesson (which I gave).
  • Sales – Just this week I talked to the girls about having the freedom to buy more than was on the list if the item was a regular household purchase and it was on sale.  We went through the types of products that would be worth buying in bulk on sale.  Though we don’t have a space issue, maybe when they are responsible for their own budgets, they may, so we talked about the balance of available money and available storage space as well.  Until this time the children were responsible for only buying what was on the list.  I would buy sales products when I could.
  • Budgeting – It has been good to talk to the girls (even though Daniel helps with the shopping as well) about different ways to budget shop for groceries.  Each family will make a value call – time, money, products, lifestyle all affect how we spend money at the grocery store.  I have always enjoyed listening to other women share how they try to save money with their food bill, and have been passing on this information to the girls – even though we may or may not follow the idea.

As I reflect back on these money based skills I realise that I have taught math at the grocery store – but I’ve taught responsibility even more so.  But the important thing for me to encourage other families with is – that it doesn’t all have to be taught today!  These skills and understandings have taken a few years and little by little I have increased their knowledge, allowed them to practice and given them responsibilities.  What way could your children help you with the grocery shopping this week?

Extra thought – Daniel started just before he could read.  I gave him mostly the fridge isle because it was the items he was most familiar with, we would read through his list (which he would mostly memorise not read) and off he would go.   You could use pictures too for the youngest in your family – have the most regular food they are familiar with, cut out clippings from sales catalogues, laminate and give him a bundle each week tied together with a piece of string.  Give him a whiteboard marker to tick each one as he puts it in his trolley.  Or – find clip art that he would associate with the food item, and make your shopping list that way.

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